Kao The Kangaroo Is Uncomplicated 3D Platforming Fun

We take a look at Tate Multimedia's Kao the Kangaroo, which is a throwback to the golden age of 3D platformers. Can it hold a candle to the greats?

Published: April 21, 2022 9:00 AM /

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Kao running through a forest level in Kao the Kangaroo

Of all the platforming properties that have been on hiatus since the mid-2000s, Kao the Kangaroo was perhaps one of the least likely to get a reboot. Of course, it's got a hardcore dedicated following, but there are very few games that don't, and Kao isn't exactly platforming royalty. That's a shame, though, because Kao the Kangaroo Round 2, which was re-released on Steam back in 2019, is a solid and underrated gem. Developer Tate Multimedia seems to feel the same way, because they're reviving the character for the simply-named Kao the Kangaroo, which is due to arrive this summer. I got to sit down with a preview build of the game to see if this marsupial madness is a masterpiece or a mistake.

Kao The Kangaroo Takes Platforming Back To Basics

Kao platforming in Kao the Kangaroo
There are plenty of idyllic levels to platform through in Kao the Kangaroo.

Given that Tate Multimedia's stated objective with Kao the Kangaroo is to pay homage to the classics, it's no surprise that it does exactly that. This is a classic, dyed-in-the-wool 3D platformer that could easily slot in among its peers in the mid-2000s. It's got everything you could want from a game like this: powerups, collectibles, a series of levels with secret paths to explore, boss fights, and plenty of slightly illogical swinging traps and spike pits to avoid. It's fair to say that if you're in the market for something progressive that moves the platforming genre forward, Kao the Kangaroo ain't it.

Happily, the platforming itself feels great. Kao (whose name, I discovered throughout the course of this preview, is pronounced "kay-o" and not "cow", which makes sense given that he's a boxing kangaroo) feels fluid and natural to control, even if the overall physics can feel a little clunky. Each level offers the chance to chain skillful jumps and bounces together, and there's a mechanic by which you can hit crystals to reveal hidden platforms and other elements, too. The gameplay offers the chance to express your skill without ever feeling too brutally difficult, which is exactly what you want from a classic 3D platformer.

Kao The Kangaroo Has A Few Tricks Up Its Sleeve

Kao exploring lava caves in Kao the Kangaroo
As Kao is helpfully pointing out, you'll unlock upgrades that will help you explore more of Kao the Kangaroo's world.

Although the platforming action on offer here is pretty rote (albeit very accomplished), there are a few ways in which Kao the Kangaroo deviates from the template. For one thing, there are Metroidvania-style upgrades that will allow Kao access to different areas in the world. Early on, you'll get access to a fire upgrade for your boxing gloves, which will let you burn flimsy spider's webs in order to get at the goodies beyond. It's not much, but that extra little flair of tantalizing items hidden behind walls you can't break yet does make backtracking through hubs feel more exciting.

There are also puzzles, which you'll need to solve if you want to progress. The puzzles don't usually integrate too well with the surrounding environment; an early puzzle simply has Kao rotating stone tablets so they form an unbroken line, but that line doesn't correspond to anything in the world, instead simply creating a series of platforms for you to jump across. At their worst, these sections break the platforming flow, but they're never lengthy or demanding enough to constitute a serious interruption. As such, they often feel welcome -- a way to use Kao's skillset for tasks other than jumping and fighting.

The Story In Kao The Kangaroo Keeps Getting In The Way

Walt talking to Kao in Kao the Kangaroo
After a few cutscenes in Kao the Kangaroo, you'll wish the characters would stop explaining and start doing instead.

Unfortunately, given how great it feels to control Kao, the narrative here keeps getting in the way. It's kind of amazing that a 3D platformer like this feels the need to justify and contextualize itself as often as Kao the Kangaroo does. Every few steps (in the early levels, at least) you'll be interrupted by a cutscene telling you where to go and why you're going where you're going. Given that the objective in most stages is simply "go forward" or "beat the boss", it really doesn't feel like this much narrative context is necessary at all. Kao the Kangaroo would be much better served if its characters could just be quiet and get on with it.

The characters themselves are...fine, if a little flat. Kao the Kangaroo has voice acting, much like Kao the Kangaroo: Round 2, but the standard has significantly improved here in that it merely sounds acceptably mediocre. There's almost something comfortingly nostalgic about the wooden, flat dialogue and the way the characters deliver it as though they're not actually talking to one another. Still, it does feel frustrating when the satisfying platforming action is interrupted yet again by another redundant story cutscene. There's a great 3D platformer in here, but it needs more space to breathe than Tate is giving it.

You Know What You're Getting With Kao The Kangaroo

Kao running across a beach in Kao the Kangaroo
Kao the Kangaroo contains very few surprises, but that's one of its strengths, too.

If you can overlook the overabundance of cutscenes, then you know exactly what you're getting with Kao the Kangaroo: a very solid, enjoyable 3D platformer with exactly the kind of level structure (forests, lava caves, ocean stages) that every 3D platformer circa 2005 offered. Sometimes, this adherence to nostalgia works to Kao's detriment; there's really no reason for a game to have a lives system in 2022, for example. For the most part, though, if you love 3D platforming and you like mammalian mascots with a sarcastic injection of 'tude, then on the strength of this preview build, it looks like you're going to love Kao the Kangaroo.

Of course, that comes with the caveat that if you're not a 3D platforming convert, then this very much isn't for you, and it doesn't want to be, either. It's not making any attempts to convert the skeptical. You'll run through levels, engage in token melee combat (that can occasionally feel a little floaty and imprecise), and gather hundreds upon hundreds of collectibles. It's also worth noting that this isn't a Jak and Daxter or a Spyro the Dragon. It's better than Ty the Tasmanian Tiger by some distance, but it's not up to the standards of Crash Bandicoot or Ratchet and Clank. Maybe it's unfair to compare Kao the Kangaroo to its 3D platforming cousins, but after all, Tate's game feels like a perfect paint-by-numbers representation of the genre's template. If you love 3D platformers as I do, then you'll appreciate that refusal to deviate from the course all the more.

TechRaptor previewed Kao the Kangaroo on PC via Steam using a code provided by the developer. It's set to launch in summer 2022.

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| Senior Writer

Joe has been writing for TechRaptor for five years, and in those five years has learned a lot about the gaming industry and its foibles. He’s originally an… More about Joseph

More Info About This Game
Learn more about Kao the Kangaroo (2022)
Tate Multimedia
Tate Multimedia
Release Date
June 30, 2022 (Calendar)
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